Dear Cloud:

On February 16, 2012, in Rants, by

I just wanted to put you on notice that I’m getting a bit fed up with being branded as an idiot.  I don’t use hosted Exchange, I use on premise Exchange.  For many reasons one of which includes the fact that we need to put custom footers on our emails as we’re a CPA firm and under Circular 230 of the IRS code we have to annoy anyone with a 10 inch legal verbage that is totally not binding, everyone agrees is a crock, but some Lawyers somewhere agreed we have to do it. So we have these customer footers that sense when we have typed tax verbage, you get the annoying Circular 230 verbage.  Not easily do-able on Office 365, especially on the P1 plan.

But I’m getting too geeky on you and digressing.  Back to my rant.  I’m getting sick and tired reading articles about how Exchange is so difficult to administrate and maintain and blows up at the drop of a hat.  The other day I saw someone put up a hypothetical scenerio that a mere power outtage would corrupt Exchange jet blue databases so badly that they needed a full restoration from backup.  Honey, I know some jet blue  Engineers that would go into the details of how that would not be possible or probable with how JetBlue handles transactions.

As someone way smarter than me said, Exchange 2003 and later almost never loses data.  Exchange writes to the disk as it receives the transactions, then writes to the database, then writes to transaction logs that document changes made to the database since the last full backup.  If you have a dirty shutdown, Exchange will typically do what it needs to do to get the databases in sync with the logs.  If there’s any actions it cannot do, it will log them, but that doesn’t mean you’ve had data loss.  Moving email up to Office 365 is still storing email in an Exchange database.  There’s a reason that Exchange hasn’t changed their database to SQL, because Exchange’s jet blue works.

So every time I get beat over the head by marketing that Small Businesses need to be in the cloud, and Small Businesses need to have hosted email because that’s the only thing that makes sense, I keep feeling like if I stand back here and say “Hang on guys,  I have some key reasons why I haven’t jumped on the cloud bandwagon, the majority of which is my technology just works.  I don’t need to muck with it.  I haven’t adjusted or done anything to Exchange in years and I currently have a blazing speed of 1.5meg on my DSL connection.  There’s a glimmer of a hope that I might get Comcast in my future, but I don’t right now, and furthermore, I can’t roll out something to my office that right now, I don’t see it as an upgrade, more like just an equal trade of features with some disadvantages that when I DO need access to the server, I CAN get access to the server and I’m not having to post in a forum or attempt to figure out the PowerShell equvalent of what I do now natively in the Exchange MMC”.  But protesting too much will just get people reading my blog to say that I’m a luddite and out of touch. 

I choose cloud options when they make sense, but right now I can’t justify chucking out the door technology that is bought, paid for and just works, for technology that is still rolling out features and I’d have to pay for on a monthly basis. 

So now that I’ve laid out my reasons why I’m tired of being called an idiot for choosing on premise Exchange, prepare yourself to be called an idiot:

“What started as a simple pro bono assist turned into hours of troubleshooting to see where Exchange was improperly set up. It’s clear that these small-business IT guys don’t have the training to deploy a system as complex as Exchange.”

J. Peter, I’m sure you didn’t mean to call ALL Small-business IT guys as idiots.  And certainly when it comes to SBS 2011 standard, trust me, it’s a HECK of a lot easier to deploy Exchange with full SSL certificates on THAT box than it is right now with SBS Essentials and Office 365 integration module.  Especially when you’ve already got a domain, it’s no walk in the park as that domain wizard was built assuming you had no domain at all. 

“Ultimately, I wish companies would call me before they deploy an on-premise Exchange environment so that I can try to talk them out of it, save them some money, and help me avoid the frustration of hunting down the cause of their deployment woes. For many companies, Office 365 is simply a much better option.”

J. Peter, there you go again.  Granted you didn’t say ALL companies and merely used the word many, but you can’t just be as blind to hosted as you are claiming the Small-business IT guys are to on premise…. one size does not fit all.  Cloud has to be chosen when it makes sense just as much as on premise does.  You can’t make blanket statements.  There’s issues of support.  There’s issues of features.  There’s issues of cost.  Because it’s not always cheaper in the cloud.  And especially … in California… in a library?  Where we are facing budget shortfalls and cash is tight?  You sure you want to recommend locking in a firm to a monthly bill that -I-guarantee-you- will not decrease.  (We just got my cable bill, it NEVER goes down).

Just the other night on our local NPR radio in fact they had a show about our local libraries and stated that “Governor Jerry Brown released his new budget with no state funding for libraries for the second year in a row” and that our local Measure B, which is up for renewal this fall, that MAY NOT GET renewed, may severely impact services.  That Library may have had a County Measure that gave them the capital budget for that technology upgrade in a single year budget item.  They may not have the ability to purchase technology on a monthly fee basis.  How is that California budget going to plan on paying for that Office 365 subscription next year if they don’t have the money to do so.

See what I mean here?  This isn’t black and white.  There’s cash flow and nuances here that are not always obvious.  Cloud makes sense when it makes both cents and sense.  But people that don’t choose it are not idiots.  And Small Business IT consultants that deploy technology based on the needs of the client and the cash flow of the client are not idiots either.


9 Responses to Dear Cloud:

  1. Lyle Epstein says:

    I think the problem is Microsoft’s head is so far up in the cloud they are now making it seem like managing an Exchange enviroment is way too complex. I have been managing Exchange since 5.5, and it has gotten better and easier to manage since it was born. I find it far more difficult for an end user to manage Office 365 Exchange when they start telling the end user to open up PowerShell and execute a bunch of commands… really Microsoft, you want end users to use PowerShell? Susan, we are not the idiot’s!
    That’s my rant.

  2. jasclar says:

    There is also the issue of exactly which country stores your Office 365 cloud-based data. It’s less of an issue in the United States where Microsoft’s main marketing people reside, but over here in the United Kingdom we could be unwittingly storing data in Germany, Netherlands or some other European country with different data protection laws. The Cloud is not as straightforward a choice as many think.

  3. Jerry Robertson says:

    And I thought I was one of the few people that thought this way, Susan!

    To me, there has never been a clear-cut single solution for all. It ALWAYS depends on the client we are working with. For some, the cloud solution works great. For others, they will be way better off with Exchange on-premise.

    It is kind of funny how J. Peter likes to put all the other techs into the box of doing on-premise only installs when really, he is just as inflexible as he purports everyone else to be. I wish I had a dime for all the other techs who thought like J. Peter. I could retire!

    So many tech that I come across think their solution was the bomb. As I tell the customers I have inherited from other techs…It’s not that the other tech necessarily had a bad solution. They just had good reasons for thinking that their solution was the best.

    Looking back, I can even flat out laugh at some of my own previous engagements. What the hell was I thinking at the time. Well, the prism one looks thru changes over time. Perhaps at some point J. Peter will realize his crystal clear prism about The Cloud will isn’t so clear.

  4. SeanPT says:

    Susan you aren’t the only one. My customers are also on the same page. When we put the numbers down and we look at the 3-4 yr cost, the cloud loses every time.

  5. Indy says:

    This seems more like a threat of someone under threat of Cloud replacing their job than making a salient point about Cloud’s misgivings. Of course Office365 is lame, some applications are just not meant for browsers. We took one look at Google’s offering and laughed and laughed at the thousands of features that were lacking before we could consider it.

    I don’t understand why a business *starting up* would even consider Microsoft, cloud or not. The main reason we stick with them is because it is rather expensive to get off of them, in comparison, and many third parties and our clients demand it. But a new company? Why go with a closed vendor that limits your capabilities?

    I find Exchange to be a complete mishmash of management hell. Why are some management tasks in the EMC, some in powershell (where a keystroke typo can say bbye DB!) some are in the freaking browser on the OS (ugh), some are in IIS MMC, some are in a GUI for another part of the OS. That in 2010 we don’t have working spam or AV native with a mail server is just a complete joke. Most of my users disable Junk filtering, it has never worked to anyone’s satisfaction. Why would I go with a Microsoft branded solution here?

    What really bugs me are all the bugs with Exchange/Outlook when MICROSOFT MAKES BOTH THOSE PRODUCTS. It’s not like Microsoft is having tremendous difficulty with some 3rd party here, they seem to have trouble with their own branded and supposedly tested products. I cannot fathom how this is possible. They control the architecture and the implementations, but the rollup for SP2 has issues that are beta-class.

    end-user and end-admin rant

  6. bradley says:

    If I was building a brand new business I might be making different decisions. But the Cloud won’t replace my job, I don’t admin Exchange boxes for my job. It’s not easy to migrate from any platform. Once you make your decision it’s not trivial to move.

  7. Jules Wilkinson says:

    Can I just point / poke fun at one thing with your otherwise well said argument…

    Please, Susan, help battle the idiocy of the use of the word “Premise” to describe being in someones building.

    Please, it’s premises.

    It needs to stop being used.

    But in every other way Susan, I am entirely with you… The math and uptime don’t really add up…

    I must admit it was refreshing to speak to James Akrigg recently when I asked him are there still people in Microsoft who’s heads aren’t in the clouds… His was one of them still in the real world – which was nice and reassuring!

  8. Jules Wilkinson says:

    …although I do hang my head in shame of not spelling premises right in the above… Argh 😛

    Can you typo correct it? Or do I get beaten with it?


    Susan:  Fixed 🙂


  9. Nathan Work says:

    Hear hear!

    It’s not just about cost, either. It’s about flexibility. Frequently I run into requests that I wouldn’t have been able to fulfill for my clients had their mailboxes been hosted offsite: sending scans to mailboxes, receiving faxes in mailboxes, receiving voicemail in mailboxes, true NTLM/SSO authentication, not having to remember a URL at another domain name for OWA, etc. Maybe all of these issues will be resolved, but what will businesses have gained? Even then it’s just an even playing field vis-a-vis on-premises.

    If you’re having problems with Exchange, it’s not the plane but the pilot.